Sidney Barnes

BARNES, SIDNEY GEORGE, who died suddenly at his home in Sydney on December 16, aged 57, was both a fine cricketer and a bizarre character. He played, generally as opening batsman, in 13 Test matches for Australia, hitting three centuries, and he and Sir Donald Bradman, each scoring 234, shared a world"s record partnership for the fifth wicket in Test cricket when adding 405 against W. R. Hammond"s team of 1946-47. Twice he toured England. In 1938 he was out of the game till towards the end of June, having fractured a wrist playing deck games on the voyage over. Even so, he scored 720 runs in 19 innings for an average of 42.35. His only Test that summer was that at the Oval when Sir Leonard Hutton hit his record-breaking 364.

His second English tour was in 1948, when he stood second in the Australian Test batting figures with an average of 82.25 and in all first-class matches put together an aggregate of 1,354, including three centuries, average 56.41. He hit 141 against England at Lord"s. In that tour he came in for much criticism for his custom of fielding at point or short-leg some five yards from the bat and almost on the pitch. R. Pollard, batting for England in the Test at Old Trafford, ended the habit when he hit Barnes in the ribs with the ball from a full-blooded stroke, which resulted in him spending ten days in hospital. Following that tour Barnes dropped out of cricket for two years and began writing outspoken articles for the newspapers.

Among the peculiar occurrences in Barnes"s career was the occasion in 1952 when the umpires turned down his appeal for a catch. Then captaining New South Wales against South Australia at Sydney, he began to lead his side off the field. The umpires ordered their return, whereupon Barnes, though only twenty minutes remained before the tea interval, called for drinks. In 1951-52, though chosen by the Selectors for the third Test against the West Indies, he was omitted at the insistence of the Australian Board of Control on grounds other than cricket ability. He claimed £1,000 damages against the author of a letter to a newspaper on the subject, but the writer withdrew his criticism in court and paid the costs.

Next season, having been passed over by the Selectors for a Test against South Africa, Barnes asked to be twelfth man for New South Wales at Adelaide. There he came out with the drinks steward, attired in a grey suit with red carnation, carrying a tray with a scent spray, a portable radio and cigars which he offered to the players and umpires. He received a mixed reception from the crowd. After that season he again took to the Press Box.

In a match in England in 1948 after a strong appeal had been turned down by A. Skelding, the umpire, a dog ran on to the field. Barnes captured the animal and carried it to Skelding with the caustic comment: Now all you want is a white stick.

He had a brief spell with Burnley, the Lancashire League club, in 1947, but the contract was ended by mutual consent before the season ended.

© John Wisden & Co